The Salt River Rafters finished week five of the Arizona Fall League season with a 3-3 record that kept themselves atop the East division standings. After a big week four that saw him collect several accolades, Royce Lewis finally appeared somewhat human, but Luke Raley more than picked up the slack with a monster week that could go a long way toward his 2020 prospects with the big-league club.
Dakota Chalmers also had another strong start and reliever Zach Neff continued to baffle his opponents with his savvy.
Continue reading to see just how big Raley came up for the Rafters, and how all the #MNTwinsInTheAFL performed in week 5 of the AFL season!
(This report includes the games played through 10/20)
Royce Lewis: 5 games, 4-19, 2 R, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, SB; .356/.422/.589 (overall)
Lewis finally had somewhat of a quiet week in the AFL after his hitting streak came to an end at 12 games, but if this is as bad as it gets there’s nothing to worry about. He reached base in four of five games and multiple times in three of five to remain at the top of the AFL leaderboards in several categories.
In Monday’s 6-5 loss to Scottsdale he batted second and played second base, finishing 1-for-4 with a run scored and drew a walk. The walk came in the top of the first and Lewis would end up stranded on second base. In their five run third inning, Lewis drove in the first run of the game with an opposite field single and would later score on a three-run homer from teammate Jerar Encarnacion.
In Tuesday’s rematch with the Scorpions, runs and hits were at a premium for both teams as they combined for just three and ten combined, respectively. Lewis finished 0-for-4 and his hit streak would come to an end at 12 games thanks to a fantastic play from Philadelphia Phillies prospect, and fellow #1 overall pick, Mickey Moniak:
Lewis however, was responsible for driving in the Rafters lone run on the game with an RBI groundout in the fourth. Lewis again manned the keystone in this game.
Back at third base and batting third in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Peoria, Lewis would finish 2-for-4, but did not score a run as he was picked off at second base by the catcher after his double in the third inning. He may have picked up something up from the catcher on that play however, as later in the game after he had singled and the next batter drew a walk, he stole third base (which he has done multiple times in AFL play) but would end up stranded.
After a couple of days off, Lewis was back in the lineup at second base for Salt River’s 8-1 win over Surprise on Saturday. He drew a walk in the first inning and would come around to score on a single for an early 2-0 lead. He added an RBI single in the fourth inning that made the score 6-0 Rafters at the time.
To close out a busy week on Sunday, Lewis went 0-for-3 with a walk in Salt River’s extra inning win over Surprise. He batted second and played third base and was on deck when the Rafters walked it off in the tenth thanks to an RBI single from Vidal Brujan of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
Dakota Chalmers: 1 start, L, 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K; 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP (overall)
Chalmers was the hard luck loser in Tuesday’s pitching duel, getting the start and finishing four solid innings. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and zero walks, while striking out four. He was in command of all his pitches in this one, throwing 35 of his 49 pitches for strikes (71%). He allowed a solo home run in the top of the first and an RBI double in the fourth, but in between retired seven in a row and topped out at 97.9 MPH on the radar gun.
Ben Rortvedt: Did not play; .111/.200/.111 (overall)
As detailed last week, a minor knee injury Rortvedt had been dealing with during the season with Pensacola and into the AFL has brought his fall league campaign to a close. He’ll be 100 percent well in advance of when pitchers and catchers report for spring training.
Luke Raley: 6 games, 9-for-23, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB, 4 K; .236/.296/.417 (overall)
Raley’s 2018 AFL season ended after just four games due to a shoulder injury, and it took him some time to get going in the AFL this year after coming back from an ankle injury suffered back in May. Entering week five with just a .510 OPS through 14 games, he found his groove in a big way in six games on the week.
He collected a hit in each contest to raise his average on the season from .170 to .236, but it was his showing in Saturday’s win over Surprise that stood out the most, as it was perhaps the best performance of any hitter in the AFL on the season. Just how good you ask? Let’s take a look at-bat by at-bat:
2nd inning: Leads off frame with a hard hit single up the middle, later scores on a single for a 3-0 Rafters lead.
3rd inning: Blasts a 2-run homer to the opposite field off Kansas City Royals prospect Daniel Lynch (#69 overall prospect per MLB.com, and #8 LHP prospect) for a 5-0 lead.
5th inning: On a 2-1 pitch, Raley clubs his second home run of the game, this one a solo shot to right field, making it 8-1 Salt River.
7th inning: On perhaps his hardest hit ball of the night, Raley obliterates a pitch into the gap that hits high off the wall for a double, barely missing his third homer of the night.
In Raley’s 4-for-4 night he would score three and drive in three. While I’m not going to detail the rest of his games on the week, he is on a current seven-game hitting streak that’s completely transformed his batting line on the AFL season. I’d also encourage you to check out what he did in Monday’s game a week early, helping propel the Rafters to an especially big comeback win.
Moises Gomez: 1 appearance, 1.0 IP, K; 5.40 ERA, 1.90 WHIP (overall)
Gomez saw action in just one game on the week but made the most of it with a one-two-three outing. He came on for the seventh inning in Wednesday’s win over Peoria with the score 3-2 in favor of the Rafters and was awarded his third hold for his efforts. He threw twelve pitches with nine of them going for strikes (also was charged with an “automatic ball” to the leadoff man) and punctuated his outing with a strikeout to end the frame.
Jovani Moran: 2 appearances, 2.0 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, K; 7.88 ERA, 2.38 WHIP (overall)
The left-handed reliever’s first action of the week came in Monday’s loss to Scottsdale, and unfortunately for him would be charged with both a blown save and the loss. Entering the game in the eighth inning with a 5-3 lead, Scottsdale wasted no time making him work. The leadoff man doubled before he got a groundout, but then loaded the bases with consecutive walks. A sac fly was then followed by a two-run single that put the Scorpions out front 6-5 before he got the final out.
In Friday’s 9-0 loss to Peoria Moran was summoned with one out and a runner on first in the top of the seventh. A wild pitch that was followed by a single put runners on the corners before a sac fly made it 4-0 Javelinas. Back out to start the eighth Moran struggled to find the strike zone, walking the first two hitters of the inning before a mound visit bought some time to warm up another reliever. He then got a pop-up to record three total outs but that was the end of his outing. Both of the runners he was responsible for would end up scoring though it didn’t matter much besides inflating his ERA as the Rafters were shut out.
Zach Neff: 1 appearance, S, 2.0 IP, BB, 3 K; 1.69 ERA, 0.56 WHIP (overall)
Neff has been the reliever standout among Twins prospects thus far in the AFL season, and his lone appearance on the week followed that theme. Entering Wednesdays 4-2 win over Peoria in the eighth after Gomez, he also picked up his first save by finishing the final two innings. He set the Javelina’s down in order in his first inning on just eight pitches, including a strikeout, before needing to work a little harder in the ninth. He struck out the leadoff man on three pitches then got a grounder on a 2-2 pitch for the second out before losing a nine-pitch battle by allowing his first walk of the AFL season. With the tying runner up to bat, Neff buckled down and caught him looking on a 3-2 count to end the game.
Other AFL and Minor League Links:
-For his efforts last week, including an MVP award in the Fall Stars game, Royce Lewis was named the AFL hitter of the week.
-After their victory on Monday (10/21) behind Luke Raley and Lewis, the Salt River Rafters have clinched the AFL East Division and will play in the AFL championship game on Saturday.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke with Luke Raley after his monster game on Saturday. He talks about his ankle injury that kept him out for most of the MiLB season and getting back into the swing of things in the AFL and with his new organization.